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Into the Cool Book Reviews


"...science writers Eric Schneider and Dorion Sagan argue that even from a scientific perspective, life does serve a purpose, and thus does have a meaning that transcends the self."

 

"In Into the Cool, Eric Schneider and Dorion Sagan unravel the intricacies of cosmology, meteorology, chemistry, ecology and even the mysteries of human aging in an unexpected but accessible and entertaining manner. It's all very simple. It's all very complex. The book careens between these poles like a pinball in urgent play, until the reader is forced, willy-nilly, to think in terms of energy flow, gradients, and The Second Law. This turns out to be something of a delight, like using a new tool specially sharpened and specifically made for that job that we all assume when we first ask, 'why?' " - Tim Cahill, author of Hold the Enlightenment and Lost in My Own Backyard" --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

"The idea seems paradoxical--that the source of all the complexity of life might just be nature''s tendency to equalize things. But Schneider and Sagan''s readable book makes the notion plausible. And the authors do more than demystify thermodynamics, they make it come to life! So you didn''t think that nonequilibrium thermodynamics could be romantic? This book, fascinating as it is provocative, proves you''re wrong!" - Roald Hoffmann, chemist and writer (Roald Hoffmann)

"In Into the Cool, the authors unravel the intricacies of cosmology, meteorology, chemistry, ecology, and even the mysteries of human aging in an unexpected but accessible and entertaining manner. It''s all very simple. It''s all very complex. The book careens between these poles like a pinball in urgent play, until the reader is forced, willy-nilly, to think in terms of energy flow, gradients, and the Second Law. This turns out to be something of a delight, like using a new tool specially sharpened and specifically made for that job that we all assume when we first ask ''Why?'' - Tim Cahill, author of Hold the Enlightenment and Lost in My Own Backyard (Tim Cahill)

"In his well-known essay ''The Two Cultures,'' C.P. Snow famously remarked that an inability to describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics was a form of ignorance comparable with never having read a work of Shakespeare. It''s fair to say that these days, the Second Law gets far less press than the Bard. Enter Into the Cool, in which the authors claim that the study of thermodynamics (in some ways the neglected stepchild of the sciences) can inform our understanding of biology, ecology and even economics. The authors begin by rephrasing the Second Law-as ''Nature abhors a gradient''-and proceed to illustrate its relevance to large systems in general. Whether one is considering the difference between heat and cold or between inflated prices and market values, they argue, we can apply insights from thermodynamics and entropy to understand how systems tend toward equilibrium. The result is an impressive work that ranges across disciplinary boundaries and draws from disparate literatures without blinking. It''s also a book that (much like Shakespeare and the Second Law of Thermodynamics) requires effort on the reader''s part-it''s not for casual reading." - Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)

"A well-researched and often fascinating discussion that covers an impressive range of subjects, including Maxwell's demon, weather patterns, natural selection, the maturity of ecosystems, and the purposefulness of life. . . . Into the Cool shows that there is much more to thermodynamics than Carnot cycles and phase diagrams. . . . An engaging, non-technical introduction to a variety of topics." - Christopher Jarzynski, Physics Today (Christopher Jarzynski Physics Today)

"The book succeeds in highlighting the potential importance of thermodynamic ideas in understanding certain aspects of organization in biological systems. . . . A good reference for readers interested in exploring an area of theoretical biology whose relevance has increased with the current interest to forge a rapprochement between physics and biology." (Lloyd Demetrius Quarterly Review of Biology)

"Into the Cool is a dazzling exposition of an idea: that life is fundamentally not a noun, or a thing, but a verb. Building upon the beautiful subtleties of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, Eric Schneider and Dorion Sagan take us on a tour de force through biology, touching upon the origin of life, sex, evolution, ecology, and even economics. Along the way, they dethrone the idea that the gene is the central actor in the drama of life and put the focus properly back on the plot--the organized flows of matter and energy that make life what it is. This book is destined to be a classic." - J. Scott Turner, author of The Extended Organism (J. Scott Turner)



   
© 2005 Hawkwood Institute Eric D. Schneider Into the Cool